The Tactical Airbrone Reconnaissance System (TARS) is being used to provide photo recon for our troops in Iraq.
BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- A little-known capability here is paying big dividends for warfighters on the ground. Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 332nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron are using the Theater Airborne Reconnaissance System, or TARS pod, to provide high-quality still imagery to ground commanders to help them achieve their tactical objectives.
The TARS pod, mounted on the centerline of the F-16, contains a sophisticated photographic system that records high-resolution images which can be exploited by users on the ground within hours of landing. Because the pod is mounted on the centerline, the aircraft can still carry a variety of munitions under the wings to perform close air support for ground forces and air-to-air missions if necessary.
TARS, a capability exclusive to the Air National Guard, is being used in a variety of ways in Iraq. One of these is to help ground forces with their mission planning, providing them up-to-date imagery of roads, houses, structures, neighborhoods and other areas of interest.
"Many of the images being used by the ground guys for mission planning are Falcon View satellite images that are often dated," said Lt. Col. Kerry Gentry, commander of the 332nd and member of the New Jersey Air National Guard. "A lot can change over time in terms of new construction of buildings and roads. We can provide our JTACs and other ground forces up-to-date, high-resolution images they need to execute their missions."
Just how good is the resolution? The TARS pod is the equivalent of a 36-megapixel camera, said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Fisher, 332nd Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and a guardsman from the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne, Ind.
To put that in perspective, most handheld digital cameras range between two and five megapixels. The resolution of the TARS images, however, is only one of its advantages.
Our folks in Iraq are rewriting the book on how to fight a war. They're kicking ass and taking names, but you won't hear much about it from the folks who pass themselves off as the news media. I guess it'll be up to the blogosphere to get the word out.